InterAct Blog

Industrial metaverse for manufacturing systems: hype or future reality?

Nikolai Kazantsev, Russell Goh, Bethan Moncur, and Chander Velu

Our project aims to provide a coherent interdisciplinary summary of established knowledge from academia and practice on the application and potential benefits, barriers, and risks of a metaverse in manufacturing, mainly focusing on bridging technical and social insights.

Metaverse is expected to provide numerous benefits, particularly in production process optimisation, employee induction and collaboration. The most surprising research finding so far is just how varied the definitions of metaverse are. For our study, we define industrial metaverse as” a sensory environment that uses extended reality to blend the physical and digital worlds to transform how businesses design, manufacture and interact with objects”.

The existing industrial cases reveal technological barriers such as immaturity, lack of sufficiently strong communication networks and sustainability concerns. Other cases include cybersecurity risks like cyberattacks and data protection/privacy issues. The social barriers include jurisdictional and legislative difficulties, lack of cooperation between companies necessary to achieve interoperability and the need to change worker and user mindsets. 

Figure 1. Industrial metaverse as a new interface to the products’ manufacturing system

Although the data suggests immersion as a driving force of the metaverse[1], a full immersion can not be achieved without impacting the senses and feelings of a user. For example, in sensory marketing, similar impacts (experience stimuli) are used to trigger purchasing intention (Dewey, 1925; Schmitt, 1999), however, in the physical reality. Hence, we envision a similar trend in the digital world, where an industrial metaverse will extend the numeric and graphical data (such as reports) into coherent immersive experiences that will also affect feelings, Figure 2.

Figure 2. Industrial Metaverse as a combination of senses stimuli

Our conceptualisation efforts aim to prototype an industrial metaverse that activates several senses (sight, sound, temperature, and smell) and test how the extended experience triggers actions.

“Highly promising results are expected for the intersection of resilience and sustainability,” said Nikolai. “For example, based on the sensory marketing research that positions smell as the strongest attractor for purchasing decisions, we aim to virtualise the production conditions with sight, sound, temperature, and smell and enhance experience stimuli in the metaverse. We think it will better inform purchasing choice and support the demand pattern for clean energy, ethical production, and fewer emissions along supply chains.”

After the first results of the systematic literature review, we wish to explore the feasibility of the extended reality to shift decision-making towards more expensive but more sustainable decision-making along the manufacturing value chain[2]. Over the following months, our research aims to exemplify our concept using a scenario based on food manufacturing system for chocolate production. To do so, we will integrate the popular Augmented Reality platform with audio, temperature and smell generator devices to extend the experience for a policy-maker, manufacturer or customer making a hard choice between a cost-efficient vs. sustainable manufacturing system. This prototype will be used as a sensory dashboard for an extended representation of material sources, production conditions, carbon footprint and energy sources to better inform the stakeholder about the impacts of their decision.

“Carbon emission, working conditions, and energy consumption remain underexplored in the real world but visible in the metaverse. Hence, the metaverse can be used to raise awareness about manufacturing systems.”

Yet, It is unclear if being informed on carbon emissions in real-time will impact manufacturers’ use of their machines and shift the regulation imposed by policymakers. For example, would the smell of burning Amazon forests shift a consumer’s decision-making closer to more expensive sustainable purchase better than the printed carbon footprint number on the product package?

Figure 3. Industrial metaverse as a sensualisation of real-time data sharing   

The project has an open innovation philosophy, so we wish to create a discussion space around the metaverse application for manufacturing and are open to collaboration with the InterAct researchers and the industrial community.

To disseminate the findings, we plan to run a public event involving technology providers, industry, academia and stakeholders from the local public administration at the end of 2023.



Dewey, J. (1981). The later works, 1925-1953 (Vol. 3). SIU Press.

Schmitt, B. (1999). Experiential marketing. Journal of marketing management15(1-3), 53-67.

Petit, O., Velasco, C., Wang, Q. J., & Spence, C. (2022). Consumer consciousness in multisensory extended reality. Frontiers in psychology13.


[1]64% of industrial cases describe metaverse as a realistic user experience

[2] The team is considering to apply for further funding via the newly launched Impact Booster Competition of Made Smarter Innovation Challenge

InterAct Blog

Toyota, you and a “human centric” digital manufacturing future

Russell Watkins

The Interact tagline was carefully crafted when Made Smarter and ESRC stumped up the money to make this network a reality. That tagline being: “pioneering human insight for industry” with the spoken aim to create a “network that aims to bring together economic and social scientists, UK manufacturers, and digital technology providers to address the human issues resulting from the diffusion of new technologies in industry”.

Yes, yes and yes again – this is what drew me to interact in the first place. It makes perfect sense when you think about it; in our factories, to make things, you need to bring machines, materials, and a method of doing it together with people. People are the glue that make the 4Ms work in harmony. And yet, walking the halls of Smart Factory conferences – the exhibitor wares on show are 95% things or data.

IoT, Sensors, robots, cobots, AI and data analytics are all critical, in tandem with people. We need to concurrently invest in skills to get the best out of these innovations, especially if we want a long term functioning society to manage this nascent 4th industrial revolution, without unrest and social upheaval.

Ponder for a second on any investment you make in a manufacturing business. The following are likely to be true:

Somebody has to research the market

Somebody has to talk to vendors

Somebody has to negotiate and buy it

Somebody has to commission it

Somebody has to programme it

Somebody has to maintain it

Somebody has to load and unload it during the shift

Somebody has to change the kit over or update the programme/parameters

Somebody has to respond to it when the Andon goes off

Somebody has to act on that

Somebody has to interpret the data that comes out of sensors

Somebody has to troubleshoot

Somebody has to problem solve and…

…a number of people have to find kaizen to keep you competitive.

‘Somebody’ might be multiple people for each of these activities. What is clear is that ‘Somebody’ needs to considered alongside the physical and data innovation that Industry 4.0 has to offer. InterAct are, comfortingly, working in that space.

This raises an important question about where manufacturers should invest in digital manufacturing. Investment always warrants head scratching as capital dollars/pounds/euros and yen are scarce, but thinking is free. The mantra I’d advise you to adopt underpins the model below. Invest where you SHOULD, not just where you CAN.

This requires pausing, thinking and coming to the CapEx table with a business problem to solve – low productivity or persistent specific quality issues for example. Having said that, the lean start-up principle of creating proof-of-concepts means we can place multiple bets (run trials) on various technologies, as long as we treat them like little experiments to learn whether they’re worth investing in further.

A smart way of thinking about all of this is the Toyota style thinking that I experienced on my last two trips to Japan. They think of it as a numerator and a denominator. The numerator represents the equipment you use to create value that your customers will buy. The aim is to improve the equipment work. The denominator represents the people working in the manufacturing business and asks whether we can improve people’s work.

Within this model, the categories to invest time and resources in are those that:

For the Equipment – “predict problems” or detect “early symptoms” of problems (both of these are likely Safety, Quality or Delivery related)

For the People – “eliminate low value added work” (like walking around checking things at the start of the shift or the admin burden of logging results/performance) or “reduce variation in standard work” (as an example, think 2 setters on opposite shifts changing the same machine from part A to part B, but the first setter takes twice as long)

The real gold to be mined is in the 2 bubbles that serve both. Digital manufacturing done well can “visualise issues” that are hidden to the human eye or our current data harvesting and sensor inputs. Rather nicely, if you listen hard enough to the data, it can identify the next, best kaizen to take you forward.

The idea is this; if you focus on both Equipment and People you’re going to open up a bigger benefit by improving both the numerator and denominator. That sounds very much like competitive advantage to me. As Eddie Jones (yes, the former England Rugby coach) said in his recent book on Leadership “The only reliable advantage we’ve got is to learn faster than the opposition”

InterAct is the best game in town, looking into the future to secure the role of human skill in our bright digital future. Get involved, you can either snooze your way to 2040 and then stand, blinking into the sunlight, complaining about the outcome. Or you can help shape and secure the UK’s place in manufacturing’s coming world order. Interact is moving into an exciting phase in 2023/24 where the research bears practical fruit. There are various ways to get involved, and you can keep up to date with all the latest news and opportunities here.

For more information about Sempai and the support they provide to employers, please click here.

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Industrial strategy: a manufacturing ambition

The UK manufacturing sector is an essential contributor to the country’s economy generating £206bn gross valued added in 2022 a fifth higher than a decade ago. It accounts for around half our exports, two thirds of spending on research and development and accounts for a significant level of business investment. The sector employs around 2.6m highly skilled people across the UK, many of them in areas that need levelling up. In short manufacturing matters to the prosperity and security of the UK.

The sector is now at a critical juncture. Ten years ago Make UK (then EEF) set out its case for an industrial strategy. Since then we have had six plans for growth but now find ourselves without one.

There is broad agreement among stakeholders about what the UK needs for a successful industrial strategy. These can be broadly categorised into five themes, skills; infrastructure; finance; innovation and the business environment. To these can now be added significant shifts in the policy landscape from the post Brexit and pandemic landscape, the transition to net zero, rapidly accelerating technologies spinning out from the fourth industrial revolution and the political imperative to spread growth more evenly across the UK.